Alex Miller: Making Waves, June 5, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alexandra (Alex) Miller, Chicago, IL
Onboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
May 27 – June 10, 2015 

Putting ourselves in the way of beauty. Several members of the science crew joined me to witness this sunset.

Putting ourselves in the way of beauty. Several members of the science crew joined me to witness this sunset.

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment
Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast
Date: Friday, June 5th, 2015

Weather Data:

  • Air Temperature: 14.0°C
  • Water Temperature: 12.7°C
  • Sky Conditions: Clear
  • Wind Speed (knots/kts) and Direction: 21.9 kts, NNW
  • Latitude and Longitude: 45°00’19”, 124°19’94”

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Before I go into the events of the research and life onboard the Shimada, let me explain the weather data I share at the beginning of posts at sea. Weather can change quickly out at sea so the ship’s Officer(s) of the Deck (OODs) keep a running record of conditions throughout the cruise. On the Shimada, the OODs all happen to be NOAA Corps Officers, but there are civilian mates and masters on other ships.

Another important reason to collect weather conditions and location information is that it’s need to be linked to the data that is collected. The ship collects a lot of weather data, but I’ve chosen to share that which will give you an idea of what it’s like out here.

IMG_8172

The bridge with a view of the captain’s seat.

First, I’ve shared the temperature of both the air and the water. Scientists use the Celsius temperature scale but Americans are used to thinking about temperatures using the Fahrenheit scale. On the Celsius scale, water freezes at 0°C and boils at 100°C, whereas on the Fahrenheit scale, water freezes at 32°F and boils at 212°F. I won’t go into how you convert from one scale to another, but to better understand the temperatures listed above, temperatures around 10°C are equal to about 50°F.

Second, the sky conditions give you an idea of whether we are seeing blue or gray skies or I guess at night, stars or no stars. Clear skies have graced us intermittently over the past few days, but we’ve seen everything from light showers to dense fog.

Third, is the wind direction and speed. Knots is a measurement used at sea. It stands for nautical miles per hour. 1 knot = 1.2 miles/hour or 10 knots = 12 mph.  The NOAA Marine Weather Forecast allows us to prepare for what might be coming at future stations. Depending on wind speed, some nets cannot be deployed. If wind speeds reach 25-30 kts, the kite-like neuston will literally fly away. If a weather day ends up keeping scientists from collecting data that can be very disappointing and, unfortunately, there’s no way to make up for lost time.

With the wind speeds picking up, so have the swell sizes, making for a rougher ride. As funny as it can be to watch a colleague swerve off their intended path and careen into the nearest wall, chair or person, we have to remember to, “save one hand for the ship,” meaning, be ready to steady yourself.

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Randy (foreground) and Larry (background) in their culinary kingdom.

Randy (foreground) and Larry (background) in their culinary kingdom.

Considering how well taken care of I’ve been on this cruise, it only seems right to tell you guys all about the heroes of the mess (also galley, basically, it’s the dining area), Larry and Randy. Larry and Randy plan and prepare three meals a day on board the Shimada. There’s always a hot breakfast and our dinners have included steak, mahi-mahi, and I like to think they were catering to the quarter of me that’s Irish when they made corned beef and cabbage last night. This dynamic duo really outdo themselves. Both are trained merchant mariners, meaning they hold their Z-card, and they tell me that working as a chef at sea definitely helps to bring home the bacon.

It feels good knowing that they don’t want us to just have cereal and sandwiches for the two weeks we are at sea.

Larry (background) and Randy (foreground) admiring their hard work.

Larry (background) and Randy (foreground) admiring their hard work.

I especially want to shout out Randy, the denizen of the desserts. So far Randy has made from scratch: bread pudding, chocolate white-chocolate cookies, rum cake and date bars. Good thing for me his mother was a chef because he’s been cooking since around the age of 6.

I just finished a Thanksgiving style turkey meal prepared by these two and all this told, I’m thankful there’s an exercise room on board with a stationary bike. Seriously though, these guys are doing a lot to make the ship feel like a home. With the disruption in my sleep cycle, I’ve been sleeping through some meals. Like 50% of meals. They noticed. When I came walking into dinner yesterday, after sleeping through two meals, they were full of concern and questions. Awww.

So, on behalf of all the crew and scientists, I want to say thank you for all that you do!

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Wednesday night, or Thursday morning–days tend to run together when you’re working the night shift–the net picked up an unusual jelly that Ric had to key out using a jelly identification manual. Using photos in the Pacific Coast Pelagic Invertebrates by Wrobel and Mills, Ric identifies this jelly as the Liriope (sp. ?). While Ric is an accomplished biologist, he specializes in fish identification, so the question mark after the scientific name of this jelly represents the need for a jelly expert to confirm the identification as Liriope. But what’s in a name, right? What’s really interesting about this jelly is that it usually inhabits warm water areas between 40S and 40N. We were towing north of the 44th parallel!

Liriope (?)

Liriope (sp. ?)

That wasn’t the only unusual sighting we had. Amanda, who does her surveys exclusively in the Northeast Pacific, meaning relatively close to shore (12 – 200 km) saw, for her first time in the wild, the Hawaiian petrel, a bird whose name alone suggests that Oregon is too far north to be seeing them. Additionally, it’s being more of an offshore bird makes it even more unlikely to see as far east as we are.

All images in this slideshow were taken by Amanda Gladics, Faculty Research Assistant, Oregon State University. 

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Her initial reaction to the sighting was mild surprise that she saw something she didn’t quite recognize, she decided to grab her camera and photograph the bird so she could take a second look at it. Later, she realized just how rare of a sighting she had made. After consulting with Josh Adams at USGS, it was confirmed that the bird was a Hawaiian petrel.

Though most of the community nests on the big island of Hawaii, smaller colonies are found on Oahu and Kauai, and Adams explained that they tend to loop around areas of high pressure when foraging (searching) for food. It just so happens that such an area is within our transect range. If you look at the image to the right you can see this area as a loop marked with 1024 (mb, millibars, a pressure measurement) just off the coast of Oregon.

Map of pressure systems

Map of pressure systems and precipitation in the Pacific. Note the high pressure system of the coast of Oregon (1024 mb). Photo courtesy of Amanda Gladics.

Amanda has also sent her images to Greg Gillson and Peter Pyle, two experts in the field; Gillson confirms the sighting as a Hawaiian petrel and is notifying the Oregon Birding Association Records Committee. She is still waiting to hear back from Pyle.

Super cool!

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Considering these two events alongside some warmer water temperatures the CTD and ship sensors have picked up in our transect area, the conclusion several of the scientists are reaching is that these unusual sightings are coincident with an El Niño event this year. El Niño events occur in a cycle. They are a disruption of the normal ocean temperatures, leading to anomalously warm temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. This can affect weather and climate and perhaps it can also affect animal behavior. There’s also that warm blob to consider. You yourself can see that the water temperature is warmer here than it was at our earlier transects.

For more information on how NOAA monitors El Niño events, please follow this link.

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Personal Log

In an effort to gain a deep understanding of all the research taking place on board the ship, I’ve started transitioning back to the day shift. After investing five days in training myself to stay up all night, I’m now trying to sleep through the night. My body is utterly confused about when it’s supposed to be asleep, so right now it’s settled on never being asleep. I’ve been able to catch naps here and there but I’m resorting to caffeine to keep me going.

However, there’s always a silver lining. This morning I climbed to the flying bridge for a bit of solitude with the rising sun. Few things can compare to a sunrise on a ship while it’s traveling northeast and to top it all off the swells crashing against the bow were so high that, at times, I could feel the sea spray. So I thought I would make this .gif so you can share this moment too.

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#shiplife

Until next time, scientists!

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Question of the Day:

Amanda can only survey when the ship is traveling faster than 7 kts. If the ship travels at 7 knots for 1 hour, how many nautical miles does it cover? Standard miles?

Louise Todd, Setting the Line, September 19, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Louise Todd
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
September 13 – 29, 2013

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 19, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Barometric Pressure: 1017.17mb
Sea Temperature: 28.8˚C
Air Temperature: 27˚C
Wind speed: 18.05 knots

Science and Technology Log:

Those of you following our progress on the NOAA Ship Tracker might have noticed some interesting movements of the ship.  We had some rough weather that forced us to skip a station, and the current by the mouth of the Mississippi River also forced us to skip a station.  The safety of everyone on board comes first so if the seas are too rough or the weather is bad we will skip a scheduled station and move to the next one.  Now we are off the coast of Florida and hope we can get some good fishing done!

This survey is being done using longlines.  Longlines are exactly as their name describes, long stretches of line with lots of hooks on them.  The line we are using is 6,000 feet long, the length of one nautical mile.  From that long line, there are 100 shorter lines called gangions hanging down with hooks on the end.  Each gangion is 12 feet long.

Gangions

Gangions in the barrel

When we arrive at a sampling station, everyone on our shift helps to set the line.  In order to set the line, we have to bait each one of the hooks with mackerel.

Baited gangions

Baited gangions ready to go

Once the hooks are baited, we wait for the Officer of the Deck (OOD), driving the ship from the bridge, to let us know that we are in position at the station and ready to start setting the line.  The first item deployed is a high flyer to announce the position of our line to other boats and to help us keep track of our line.

High Flyers

High flyers ready to be deployed

This is a bottom longline survey so after the high flyer is deployed, the first weight is deployed to help pull the line to the bottom of the ocean just above the seabed.  After the first weight is deployed, it is time to put out the first 50 hooks.  This is typically a three person job.  One person slings the bait by pulling the gangion from the barrel and getting ready to pass it to the crew member.  Another person adds a number tag to the gangion so each hook has its own number.

Numbers for hooks

Number clips are attached to each gangion

A member of the deck crew attaches each gangion to the main line and sends it over the side into the water.  The gangions are placed 60 feet apart.  The crew members are able to space them out just by sight!  The bridge announces every tenth of a mile over the radio so they are able to double check themselves as they set the line.  Another weight is deployed after the first 50 hooks.  A final weight is placed after the last hook.  The end of the line is marked with another high flyer.  Once the line has been set, we scrub the gangion barrels and the deck.  The line stays in the water for one hour.

Once the line has soaked for one hour, the fun begins!  Haul back is definitely my favorite part!  Sometimes it can be disappointing, like last night when there was absolutely nothing on the line.  Other times we are kept busy trying to work up everything on the line.  When the line is set and brought back in, everything is kept track of on a computer.  The computer allows us to record the time and exact location that every part of the line was deployed or retrieved.  The touchscreen makes it easy to record the data on the computer.

Computer

Computer ready to document what is on each hook

Personal Log:

It is nice to be doing some fishing!  There have been some long distances in between our stations so my shift has not gotten the opportunity to set the line as much as we would like.  I’m hopeful that the weather holds out for us so we can get a few stations in on our shift today.  Being able to see these sharks up close has been amazing.  I am enjoying working with the people on my shift and learning from each one of them.  Before we haul back the line, I ask everyone what their guess is for number of fish on the line.  My number has been 45 the past few haul backs and I’ve been wrong every time!  Christine was exactly right on one of our last haul backs when she guessed two.  I know I’ll be right one of these stations.  It is hard to get pictures of what comes up on the line because we get so busy processing everything.  I’m going to try to get more pictures of our next stations.

The views out in the Gulf are gorgeous.  I never get tired of them!

Moon Rising

Can you see the moon?

Sunset over the Gulf

Sunset over the Gulf

Did You Know?

When we arrive at a sampling station, the officer on watch must be aware of other ships and rigs in the area.  At times the bridge watchstander will make the decision to adjust the location of our sampling station based on large ships or rigs in the area.

Rig and Ship

Rigs and other ships in the area of a sampling station can force us to move the station

Virginia Warren: Adios, Ciao, Shalom, Arrivederci, Adieu, Auf Weidersehen, in other words Goodbye for Now, July 17, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9th – 17th, 2013

Mission: Leg 3 of the Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Sailing Back to Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Date: July 17th, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: Mostly sunny with occasional fog and 1 to 2 foot seas (The weather was perfect for the last two days of the trip!)

Personal Log: 

I’ve had the most wonderful time on this trip and made some really great new friends! I enjoyed it so much that I almost hated to see it come to an end! I worked with an awesome group of people on my watch who were always full of information! Erin has a marine biology degree, as well as a technology graduate degree. She was great to talk to, learn from, and she always helped me make the right decisions. Adam was our watch chief on the day watch crew, which means that he was responsible for collecting data and directing the rest of the science crew as we sorted the contents of the dredge. He was always very helpful and knowledgeable about the different types of species that came up with the dredge. Jon was the chief scientist for the leg 3 sea scallop survey. Jon had a very busy job because he was in charge of both science crews, communicating with the home lab, collaborating with the ship crew, deciding on dredge spots and HabCam routes, and for showing me the ropes. I really do appreciate all the time he took out of his busy days to help me and teach me! Jared was the HabCam specialist on board for this leg of the sea scallop survey. He has an ocean engineering degree and works for WHOI, which is the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Jared helped design and test the HabCam vehicle so that it would protect the camera and other equipment while underwater. He also kept our crew entertained with ‘tunes’ and laughs. This group of people was great to work with and I would do it again with them in a heartbeat. I really hope that I will get another opportunity to do something like this again in the future!

Virginia's Day Watch Crew

The day watch science crew taking the last dredge picture of the Leg 3 Sea Scallop Survey.
Pictured left to right: Erin, Virginia, Adam, Jon, and Jared

I also really enjoyed the crew of the Hugh R. Sharp. They were always welcoming and forthcoming with answers to questions about the ship. They also keep their ship clean and comfortable. My favorite place on the ship was the bridge, which is where they steer the ship. The bridge is the best place to watch for whales and sharks. It has panoramic glass all the way around it, plus you can walk right outside the bridge and feel the breeze in your face, or have some very interesting conversations with the ship’s crew.

R/V Hugh R. Sharp in Woods Hole, MA

R/V Hugh R. Sharp in Woods Hole, MA

Science and Technology Log:

As my trip came near to an end, I started wondering what were some of the differences between the research dredge we were using and the dredge a commercial scallop fisherman would use. Our research dredge was an 8 foot New Bedford style dredge, as opposed to the commercial ships who use two 15 foot dredges on either side of the ship. Scallop dredges are made up of connecting rings that keep the scallops in the dredge. The research dredge we used was made up of 2 inch rings. Commercial dredges are required to have a minimum of 4 inch rings. NOAA uses the smaller rings on their research dredges to be able to get an accurate population count of all the sizes of scallops in a given area. The commercial scallop fishermen are required to use the larger rings to allow smaller scallops to escape. The research dredge we used was equiped with a 1.5 inch streched mesh liner to keep other species, like fish, in the dredge because NOAA likes to measure and count them as well. Commercial scallop fishermen keep their dredges in for hours at a time.  NOAA only keeps their research dredge in the water for 15 minutes at a time. There are several other dredge regulations that commercial fisherman have to follow. Click here if you would like to read more about the regulations.

I also learned a lot about the anatomy of a sea scallop.

The anatomy of a sea scallop. Thanks to http://www.seattlefishnm.com/ for the anatomy  of a sea scallop chart.

The anatomy of a sea scallop. Thanks to http://www.seattlefishnm.com/ for the anatomy of a sea scallop chart.

Sea scallops are either male or female depending on the color of their reproductive gland, called the gonad. If a scallop has a red gonad, then that means it is a female scallop. If the gonad is a cream/yellow color, then that means the scallop is a male.

Inside View of a Male Scallop

Inside View of a Male Scallop

Inside View of a Female Scallop

Inside View of a Female Scallop

The scallop is connected to both sides of its shell with the large white part called the adductor muscle. This is the part that gets eaten. The adductor muscle is also the part that allows the scallop to clasp its shell shut. Scallops are also able to swim by sucking water into its shell and then quickly clasping the shell shut, which makes the scallop ‘swim’.

Sea Scallop's Adductor Muscle

The white chunk of meat is called the adductor muscle, which is the part of the scallop that most people eat.

Scallops have eyes that line the edges of both top and bottom shells. See if you can spot eyes on the scallops below.

Most of the scallops that we pulled up were only measured for individual length and cumulative weight, however some of the scallops were chosen to have their gonad and adductor muscle weighed, as well as their shells analyzed for age.

Virginia Measuring the Scallop's Meat Weight

Virginia Measuring the Scallop’s Meat Weight

Scallops are aged in a way similar to aging a tree. After the first two years of a scallop’s life, they are believed to grow a shell ring every year. In the picture below you can see how the shells age through the years.

Aged Scallops

Aged Scallops
Photo courtesy of Dvora Hart from the NMFS Sea Scallop Survey Powerpoint

Animals and Sights Seen:

 Beautiful Sunsets

Beautiful Sunset Near Nantucket

Beautiful Sunset Near Nantucket

Moonlight on the Water

Tons of Hermit Crabs:

Starfish:

Octopus:

Octopus

We put it in water to keep it alive while we finished sorting the table.

Barndoor Skate:

Dolphins:

Dolphin

This dolphin swam right up beside the ship.

Humpback Whales: The last night of the cruise we got to see the most amazing whale show. The pictures aren’t that great because they were a good ways away from the ship and it was right around sunset. I ended up putting the camera down so that I could just enjoy the show.

Extra Pictures:

Melinda Storey, June 21, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melinda Storey
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Melinda Storey
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 21, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 0800 hours (8 am)
Position: Latitude: 28º 09.6 minutes N Longitude: 094º 18.2 min. W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: variable
Water Temperature: 30.6 degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 27.5 degrees Celsius
Ship’s Speed: 5 knots

Science Technology Log

Atlantic Spotted dolphins are the graceful ballerinas of the sea. They are just incredible! The Gulf of Mexico is one of the habitats of the dolphin because they live in warm tropical waters. The body of a spotted dolphin is covered with spots and as they get older their spots become greater in number.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

Here you can see the spots on an older Atlantic Spotted Dolphin. To read more about dolphins go to
http://www.dolphindreamteam.com/dolphins/dolphins.html

Because Dolphins are mammals they breathe air through a single blowhole much like whales. Dolphins live together in pods and can grow to be 8 feet long and weigh 200-255 pounds. Like whales, dolphins swim by moving their tails (flukes) up and down. The dolphin’s beak is long and slim and its lips and the tip of its beak are white. They eat a variety of fish and squid found at the surface of the water. Since dolphins like to swim with yellow fin tuna, some dolphins die by getting tangled in the nets of tuna fishermen.

Newborn calves are grey with white bellies. They do not have spots. Calves mature around the age of 6-8 years or when the dolphin reaches a length of 6.5 feet. Calving takes place every two years. Gestation (or pregnancy) lasts for 11 1/2 months and babies are nursed for 11 months.

While watching the dolphins ride the bow wave, Nicolle and I wondered, “How do dolphins sleep and not drown?” Actually, we found that there are two basic methods of sleeping: they float and rest vertically or horizontally at the surface of the water. The other method is sleeping while swimming slowly next to another dolphin. Dolphins shut down half of their brains and close the opposite eye. That lets the other half of the brain stay “awake.” This way they can rest and also watch for predators. After two hours they reverse this process. This pattern of sleep is called “cat-napping.”

Dolphins maintain a deeper sleep at night and usually only sleep for two hours at a time. This method is called “logging” because in this state dolphins look like a log floating in the ocean.

The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prohibits the hunting, capturing, killing or collecting of marine mammals without a proper permit. Permits are granted for the Spotted Dolphins to be taken if it is for scientific research, public display, conservation, or in the case of a dolphin stranding. The maximum fine for violating the MMPA is $20,000 and one year in jail.

Personal Log

Watching the dolphins playfully swim below us at the bow is like watching water nymphs. I can almost see them smiling. They spring out of the water just ahead of the ship and then peel off at a ninety degree angle. FAST doesn’t even begin to describe their movement. I especially enjoy watching some of them swim upside down, their white bellies gleaming. The CO is really good at spotting them far away. The dolphins swim straight toward the ship lickity-split as if someone just let kids out for recess and they run straight for the playground. We’ve seen some babies with their mothers as well as some older spotted dolphins. It is totally amazing to look straight down into their blowholes! You can even hear them “snort” when they come up for air. Never in my life did I think I would ever have an up-close and personal relationship with a dolphin!

Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

The sunsets here are so spectacular. Check out the middle of the cloud on the left. If you look carefully you can see that the cloud has a heart-shaped opening. Last night’s sunset was purple and orange and just looked like a painting by one of the Masters. Our scientists have told us to watch for the “green flash.” If conditions are right and there aren’t many clouds, you can see a flash of neon green just as the sun plops below the horizon. We keep watching but so far no green flash.

The night is also spectacular. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. One night I went out to the bow about 12:00am and it was pitch black. Then when I looked up, it was if God had thrown diamonds into the night sky. The half moon glistened against the ocean and the lapping of the water against the bow made it just so peaceful. You don’t see that many stars at home because of all the city lights. This is almost indescribable.

One evening the ship’s crew was fishing with fishing poles off the stern (back) of the ship when one guy said his hook had gotten stuck on something. I find that amazing since they were fishing 60 feet deep. He yanked and pulled and yanked again and finally pulled up what you see here.

Crinoids

Crinoids

The orange mass that you see here is a lot of animals called crinoids. They’ve wrapped themselves around a wire coral, which you can see here at the left side and the top right hand corner. The wire coral is green. The cool thing is all of this was alive and moving. Holding it felt surreal. It was somewhat like holding a big batch of worms.

New Term/Vocabulary

Pod – a group of dolphins

Slipstream – the wake created by the dolphins as they swim

Echelon – the dragging of the babies in the slipstream

Logging – a type of dolphin sleep where they are floating and they look like a log

Cat-napping – a light stage of sleeping

Fluke – the tail of the dolphins

“Something to Think About”

Dolphins are “social animals,” which means they travel together. What would be the benefits for traveling in pods?

“Did You Know?”

Did you know that a mama dolphin doesn’t stop swimming for the first several weeks after the birth of its young? This is because a baby needs to sleep and rest and can only do that by sleeping beside its mother. The baby sleeps while its mother swims, towing the baby along in her slipstream, the drag behind the mom. This is called echelon swimming. If the mother stops swimming, the sleeping baby will sink below the surface and drown.

Nicole Macias, June 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 10, 2009

Here I am holding up a spiny lobster.

Here I am holding up a spiny lobster.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 23° 37.7’N, 164° 43.005’W
Wind Speed: 10 kts.
Air Temp: 25.6° C

Science and Technology Log 

So the job rotation finally put me into the wet lab where I had a few first hand experiences with the lobsters we have diligently been trying to catch. The first day I was a wet lab assistant and the second day I was a measurer. As mentioned before there are two types of lobsters that we are collecting data on–the spiny and the slipper. For each lobster that is caught we record the sex, the carapace length, and if it is a female we record its pleopod length, the status of her eggs and sperm plate.

There are a couple different ways to determine the sex of a spiny lobster. The first is if their back legs have little pinchers on them then they are female, no pinchers than they are male. The female has a sperm plate on the underside of its head (carapace) right before the tail begins. The male gives sperm to the female who carries it on her sperm plate, when she is ready to reproduce she will begin to scratch the sperm onto the underside of her tail where the eggs are. When we record the status of the sperm plate we must indicate either smooth or rough. Smooth means she has yet to start fertilizing her eggs and rough means she has begun scratching off the sperm. The males have a snail like structure at the base of their hind legs, this is their sperm duct that they release sperm from. The female also has much larger pleopods. The pleopods are like little flippers on the underside of the tail. The female uses her pleopods to hold her eggs. When a female is carrying eggs she is considered berried.

This is a picture of a spiny female lobster that is berried (carrying eggs, they are orange). You can also see the pleopods, which are the black with an outline of white flipper like structure. Above that, between the two legs, is the sperm plate. You can tell that she has begun to scratch the sperm off because of the rough texture.

This is a picture of a spiny female lobster that is berried (carrying eggs, they are orange). You can also see the pleopods, which are the black with an outline of white flipper like structure. Above that, between the two legs, is the sperm plate. You can tell that she has begun to scratch the sperm off because of the rough texture.

It is a little different when distinguishing from the male and female slipper lobsters. The easiest way is to locate on which base of the leg they have a pore. If they have a small clear pore on the bottom leg then they are male. If the pore is on the base of the third leg then they are female. The slipper lobsters have pleopods but they are much smaller than the spiny lobster.

This is a male because of the snail like structures (sperm duct) at the base of his legs.

This is a male because of the snail like structures (sperm duct) at the base of his legs.

The job of the pleopods is to hold the eggs before and after fertilization. The reason that their length is recorded is so that it can be compared to its body length to determine maturity. Even though this seems like a lot of information once you get the hang of the process it goes by very quickly. For every lobster that we catch we must determine whether it has a tag form the previous years. If it does then we have to make sure we put it back at the same location we found it. We are not tagging any lobsters on this cruise. I do not know why so that is something that I will have to figure out and report back to you on. On the next log I will talk about the life stages of a lobster! 

This is a picture of the top half of a spiny lobster. The carapace is the section between the eyes all the way to where the head ends and the tail starts.

This is a picture of the top half of a spiny lobster. The carapace is the section between the eyes all the way to where the head ends and the tail starts.

Personal Log 

I am definitely ready for a day off. Being a research technician is a lot more work than I was expecting. It is a lot of quick intensive manual labor followed by a lot of waiting until the next burst of work. I am beginning to despise the smell of rotting mackerel blood. It seems to follow me wherever I go on the boat. I am looking forward to the two-day transit to our next stop, Maro Reef, even though it is not for another four days. At least I am eating well and trying to fit in a work out every day.

I cannot wait to come home and tell everyone about my experiences in person.

Nicole Macias, June 4, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 4, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 23° 15.7’N, 164° 26.7’W
Wind Speed: 8kts.
Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 ft.
Water Temp: 26.3 ° C
Air Temp: 28° C

A fish that has its air bladder protruding from its gills.

A fish that has its air bladder protruding from its gills.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was our second full day of hauling and setting the traps. The science team is on a rotating schedule so that everyone gets a chance to work each position. Yesterday, I was a “runner”. My job was to stand in the pit next to the “crackers”. The crackers would take out the specimens and place them in a bucket and then take out the old bait and replace it with new bait. Once the pod was ready to go I would run the bucket to the lab and the pod (trap) down the pit tables to the stackers. It was a labor-intensive job, but at least I was able to see everything that came up in the trap. We did not catch many lobsters, but we did trap quite a few white tip reef sharks. Even though they are not very large they are extremely strong. I would know because I got to throw one over the side of the ship!

This is me in the pit when I was a "runner." So far we are catching more white tip reef sharks than we are lobsters. See the white tip on the shark’s tail fin?

This is me in the pit when I was a “runner.” So far we are catching more white tip reef sharks than we are lobsters. See the white tip on the shark’s tail fin?

Today I was a “stacker.” My job was to take the pods from the runner and stack them on the fantail, the back of the boat where the traps are released later in the day. The pods are stacked 4 high and end up covering the entire back of the boat. There are 160 pods all together. We release 10 strings of 8 pods each and 4 strings with 20 pods each. The main focus of the research being conducted is to collect data on the population of lobsters in the North West Hawaiian Islands. Even though we are targeting lobsters we record the data on everything we catch. Anything beside lobsters are considered by-catch. By-catch is considered anything that is caught accidentally. We are setting these traps for lobsters, but many times other animals will work there way into the pods. This is unfortunate for any fish that gets caught in the traps because they are pulled to the surface so fast that their air bladder expands causing a balloon-like structure to protrude from their mouth.

This is the feeding frenzy that follows the ship until the end of the day when we give them all our old bait. They are Galapagos Reef Sharks.

This is the feeding frenzy that follows the ship until the end of the day when we give them all our old bait. They are Galapagos Reef Sharks.

This “balloon” enables them to swim down and they end up being eaten by a predator or drowning. In a normal situation the swim bladder helps a fish regulate their buoyancy. The by-catch problem is seen in many commercial fishing industries. Usually they are dealing with a larger quantity of equipment and in certain instances, such as long lining, many sharks and turtles end up dying unnecessarily. The two main species of lobsters that are found in Hawaiian waters are the spiny lobster, Panulirus marginatus, and slipper lobsters, Scyllarides squammosus. Both species are also found in the waters off South Florida, but they do look a little different. The lobsters in Hawaii have more of a purple color to them. I have not come into much contact with them since my day in the lab isn’t for a while in the rotation. Once I am in the lab I will be able to report back with more information about them. Tomorrow I am a stacker again, so my biceps will be getting really big. I do know that on the first day we only caught 3 spiny lobsters and on the second day 21.

Oh! The most exciting part of the day is after we have finished hauling all the traps and replacing the old bait with new bait, we dump the old bait overboard and there is a feeding frenzy amongst the resident Galapagos sharks that follow our boat.

Personal Log 

Here I am on the fantail of the deck scrubbing the mackrel blood after setting 180 traps.

Here I am on the fantail of the deck scrubbing the mackrel blood after setting 180 traps.

Well my feet are very sore from being wet and in shoes all day. They are definitely not used to being in closed toed shoes everyday. I am ready to start working in the lab and learning more scientific information than just performing physical labor. With all the energy I am exerting I am definitely replacing all the lost energy with the delicious food that is different and amazing everyday. Today we had Hawaiian cornbread with pineapple. It was out of this world! We have also been eating a lot of fresh fish since one of the rotations included bottom fishing. I have yet to be in this rotation.

I am beginning to make friends with everyone on the ship. I am sure by the end of the month I will have forged some great friendships. It does seem like I have been on the ship for quite some time. I hope the days start going by a little faster. I am beginning to miss Florida!

I will be writing soon. Hopefully with some exciting adventures! 

Nicole Macias, June 1, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 1, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 22° 35.7’ N, 162° 32.4’ W
Wind Speed: 5 kts.
Swell waves: 2-4 ft.
Water Temperature: 26.7°C
Air Temperature: 26°C

This is "the pit" where the lobster traps are pulled into the ship. My job setting up was to bolt the legs together.

This is “the pit” where the lobster traps are pulled into the ship. My job setting up was to bolt the legs together.

Science and Technology Log 

Since the ship is still in transit to our first location the science team did not have much to do today. All we did was set the tables up in the “pit”. This is the section of the boat where the traps, or “pods”, are pulled up out of the water. Once they are pulled out of the water they are cracked open and everything is placed in a corresponding bucket to be taken to the wet lab to be measured and recorded. Everything in pod 1 would be placed in bucket one and so on. The only organism that does not go into the buckets are eels. My job today was to bolt the tables in the pit together. They needed to be bolted together in case we hit rough seas. While half of us were working on the tables the other half was inflating buoys that will be used to mark the beginning and end of a set of traps.

I also was able to release a message in a bottle that another teacher had sent to me before my trip asking if I would release it for him. The man, Jay Little, has had over 225 message bottles released all over the world. His goal is to raise awareness for the global efforts needed to preserve the integrity of oceans and inspire people to take action. The message in the bottle explains his goal and also asks that whoever finds the bottle to send him back artifacts from the location it ended up in. He uses these artifacts to make sculptures that reflect the contributions of people from around the world. Out of the 225 bottles released to date 21 have been found. The 19th bottle found had an incredible journey having circumnavigated the world in 23,000 miles. The latest discovery was in Matrouh City on the Mediterranean coast of Northern Egypt in 2007. Hopefully our bottle number 285 will land somewhere new and deliver an important message.

Here I am throwing the message in the bottle over the stern of the boat.

Here I am throwing the message in the bottle over the stern of the boat.

Personal Log 

One of the perks of being out to see are the incredible sunrises and sunsets that happen every day and the wild life that comes with it. In the morning a huge pod of either Pacific white-sided dolphins or Dusky dolphins, passed by the ship. They are very similar and some scientists believe that they might be the same species. In the evening, while on top of the bridge to watch the sunset, two red-footed booby birds decided to perch on the weather vain to watch too. They are the smallest of all the booby species and nest on land, but feed at sea. They are strong flyers and can travel up to 93 miles at a time and can dive up to 98 ft. to pursue prey.

The food is really good. Last night the cook made chocolate cake with a pecan and coconut frosting. It was very delicious. It is a good thing the boat has an exercise room so I can burn off the calories from three full meals a day. They also have a freezer that is stocked with ice cream and available 24 hours a day.

A beautiful sunset on the Pacific

A beautiful sunset on the Pacific

“Did You Know?” 

Prior to the Revolutionary War, dockworkers in Boston went on strike protesting that they had to eat lobster more than 3 times a week!

“Animals Seen Today” 

The Red Footed Booby (Sula sula) Pacific White-sided Dolphin: (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens)